It was a breezy Autumn afternoon and the school’s Headmaster stood watching as the kids raced around the windy school yard.
School ties flung over shoulders in the breeze, the children ran up to the edges of the chain link fence which separated the yard from the busy road. Sometimes they would lean against the fence, rattle it, poke it or throw balls against it. It was almost as though they wanted to break free.
And so the story goes (and I’m sure it’s an urban legend) that one day, feeling sorry for the children, the headmaster decided to remove the fence.
Suddenly, the kids were free. No more boundaries. No more restrictions. They could decide for themselves how to live their own lives.
But instead of grabbing their freedom, the kids (oddly) huddled in small groups in the middle of the playground. They didn’t go anywhere near where the fence used to be. The boundaries were gone, they were finally free, but it seemed as though they no longer knew how to keep safe.
I thought of this story recently when I read an article on Twitter about the ‘toxicity of religion’. The gist was;
There should be no boundaries in my relationships, whether they be friendships or sexual partners. Boundaries are social constructs.
Out-dated codes of morality stifle who I really am.
We need to learn the power of trusting ourselves to be good. We don’t need a higher power. I AM my own higher power.
It’s a fairly common theme on social media, a big push towards new values. On the surface, it seems liberating and freeing. Finally, instead of being stuck within the constraints of society, we can challenge all the world believes to be true and instead become the guardians of our own morality.
Bottom line; I am master of my own destiny. I get to choose what is right and what is wrong for me.
A progressive might think it’s a new and fresh way of thinking, but the truth is, there’s really nothing new about it all.
It’s the oldest thought process in the world.
From the very first chapters of the Bible, almost as though it was programmed into our DNA, Adam and Eve decided to go it alone. They wanted to see what was hidden beyond the boundaries, what life would be like, without God dictating their every move.
Fast forward to the time of Noah. From all accounts, progressives decided to throw the rule book out the window. The movie Noah (the one with Russell Crowe) depicts this in all its horrifying brutality, as the people gang up on a living animal and tear it to shreds.
According to the movie (and the Bible);
God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. God said, “I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep: people, animals, snakes and bugs, birds—the works. I’m sorry I made them.”
Harsh words. But it seemed people had chucked God into the rubbish. They didn’t need boundaries, rules or oppression from society’s values.
They wanted to go it alone.
If you’re a Bible reader, you’ll know these aren’t isolated incidents. The whole Bible is crammed with stories of people saying, ‘I don’t need you God…I can figure this out for myself’.
From the Tower of Babel to the time of Moses and the people dancing round a golden calf, to Jonah, Nineveh, Sodom and Gomorrah, through to the more contemporary horrors of today; humans have always thought we could govern ourselves.
But the truth is, we can’t.
We think we can determine right from wrong, but sooner or later, an ugliness bubbles up, and selfishness and personal agendas step up to the plate.
Authoritarian governments and religious institutions then set themselves up, with loads of rules in an attempt to control the worst excesses of humanity. Look at North Korea, some parts of the Middle East and closer to home, some religious institutions too. But sooner or later, someone will rebel, break free and begin the cycle all over again.
The truth is, we don’t know how to govern ourselves and we can’t save ourselves. For generations, we’ve tried and we’ve always ended up right back where we started.
But there’s good news;
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. Romans 3:23
And the most amazing part… grace means that living a life with boundaries doesn’t have to be suffocating or an oppressive regime stuffed full of rules.
Grace means we can be who we can do more, be more, be free to not always get it right, be forgiven when we screw up and know what it’s like to be deeply loved. Just like the kids in the schoolyard, we can run about freely, at peace, but be secure because of the fence.
Running from the rules is the oldest thing in the world.
Good job God knew it would happen and gave us someone, a Saviour who could save us from ourselves.
And when we know that, when we stop repeating the endless failures and mistakes of the past, that’s when we truly become progressive.